Updated: Jul 8, 2020
Contributed by Victoria Dinov, New Voters Communications Intern
The Earth’s climate has continuously changed throughout history. However, our world’s recent warming trend has been proven to be a result of human activity.
Since the Industrial Revolution, there has been a spike in the amount of greenhouse gas-producing activities, including in the areas of industry, transportation, and agriculture. With the amount of greenhouses gases in the air exponentially increasing, the Earth has been heating up at an unprecedented rate. The growing concentration of greenhouse gases acts as a blanket around our Earth and traps the sun's heat, causing a rise in global temperatures and notable effects on the climate, such as warming oceans, shrinking ice sheets, rising sea levels, and increased occurrence of extreme events.
Many youth have expressed growing concern about the lack of climate change solutions in motion. Burdened by the knowledge that they will be experiencing the brunt of the climate crisis’s effects, many youth voters are demanding climate action. Led by climate activists such as Greta Thunberg, Gen Z and the millennials have set out to start a new climate trend: one centered around sustainability and fixing the mistakes of previous generations.
Climate Change Statistics from NASA
Rising Global Temperatures:
The planet's average surface temperature has risen about 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit (0.9 degrees Celsius) since the late 19th century. This increase has been caused by the increased carbon dioxide directly associated with human-made emissions into the atmosphere.
Oceans have absorbed the increased heat resulting from increased emissions. The top 700 meters (2,300 feet) of our oceans have warmed more than 0.4 degrees Fahrenheit since 1969.
Melting Ice Sheets:
In Greenland and the Antarctic, ice sheets have decreased in mass. NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment shows Greenland lost an average of 286 billion tons of ice per year between 1993 and 2016.
Rising Sea Levels:
Global sea levels have risen about 8 inches in the last century. The last two decades have doubled the rise of the last century, and the exponential increase continues to accelerate each year.
Increased Ocean Acidification:
The acidity of the surface ocean waters has increased by about 30% since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. This change is the direct result of humans emitting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which is then absorbed into oceans.
The Youth Care About Climate
In December 2019, the United States Conference of Mayors published a survey regarding the policy issues most relevant to the 18- to- 29-year-old voting age group. Out of 1,000 youth voters surveyed in the USCM National Youth Poll, a whopping 80% said that climate change is a “major threat” to humanity. Bouncing off of these statistics, 58% of young voters reported that the climate crisis warrants bold measures on climate change, regardless of the economic costs. Further, 74%of the nearly 3,000 youth respondents felt that local and state governments should play a major role in adopting more sustainable policies in order to supplement the policies set by the federal government alone. Sixty percent of respondents even claimed that they were actively thinking about their environmental impact when making major life decisions and/or on a daily basis.
A Harvard poll of more than 3,000 18- to 19-year-olds further demonstrated the importance of climate change to the youth. The poll showed that 53% of likely youth voters said the “Government should do more to curb climate change, even at the expense of economic growth,” with 33% strongly agreeing. In addition to these findings of support for drastic and immediate change, the poll found that 50% of likely youth voters said: “[climate change] is a crisis and demands urgent action.” Thirty-seven percent of likely youth voters affirmed what they look for in the fight to stop the climate crisis, responding to the question asking “To combat climate change, some elected officials have endorsed ideas like upgrading all existing buildings in the country, and overhauling transportation systems, to reduce emissions. Which of the following most accurately describes your views regarding proposals like this?” said “They represent the kind of bold action we need.”
The youth have increasingly called for bold, tangible, and immediate action: The polls and surveys prove it.
How Youth Can Fix the Crisis
We can only fix the climate crisis by voting for legislators and politicians who will treat climate change as an emergency. Building from the highest youth turnout in 25 years during these past 2018 midterm elections, young voters need to show up again, and this time, they must elect leaders who will implement the climate change proposals they want. Many politicians are trying to appeal to environmental voters, meaning that our voices are finally being heard, and will hopefully impact our next set of politicians’ policies regarding the issue.
Proposed Legislation that Combats Climate Change
The most contested piece of legislation is perhaps the Green New Deal. This piece of legislation, championed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., calls for greenhouse gas emissions in our country to amount to net-zero by 2030. In conjunction with this goal, the GND plans to create millions of jobs and provide people with access to nature, clean air and water, healthy food, a sustainable environment, and community resiliency. This act is mainly supported by Democrats and is often rejected by the GOP for being too drastic.
The CLEAN Future Act is a broad climate bill targeting every aspect of the economy. Its primary goal is to achieve 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2050. This act was proposed by House Democrats and is heavily supported by the Energy and Commerce Committee leaders.
Congressional Republicans have proposed a series of bipartisan climate bills such as the USE IT Act, which promotes the development of carbon capture and utilization; the Resilient Federal Forests Act, which reduces wildfire risk through active forest management; and the Carbon Capture Modernization Act, which expands tax credits for carbon capture projects.
Youth-Led Organizations that Fight Climate Change
Sunrise Movement: a movement to stop climate change that endorses climate leaders in politics, supports the Green New Deal, and works to spread awareness of the climate crisis.
American Conversation Coalition: a conservative environmental group that has a five-point platform that embodies the future of the conservative environmental movement. It fights for climate justice while also acknowledging the importance of free enterprise and innovation in environmental discussions.
Greenpeace: one of the first major climate justice groups. Their mission is to organize global campaigns that utilize peaceful protests and communication to expose the environmental problems and solutions essential to creating a livable future.